Just one week prior to the 2010 election, all three party leaders appeared at the Citizens UK convention to espouse their support for citizen action. The parties have all, rhetorically at least, endorsed the need for greater voluntarism and collective endeavour – the Conservative Party went further by making their conception of the ‘Big Society’ central to their campaign. But what does the ‘Big Society’ mean for struggling communities in need of regeneration? Can we learn lessons from places and communities that have come together and have trailblazed this approach?
This report attempts to answer those questions by looking at two estates, Balsall Heath and Castle Vale, which have engaged in an extraordinary renewal that has involved residents, the third sector and business. The stories of these estates are not without disappointments but they are crucial to understand what success communities can achieve on their own, what help may be needed and where there are barriers to real empowerment and change. In learning from the achievements of these estates government can develop the policy tools to make the ‘Big Society’ a reality for deprived areas across the UK.